A Newport Beach man pleaded guilty Tuesday and was immediately sentenced to six months in jail for running a lottery scam out of a Santa Ana liquor store, in which he redeemed winning tickets and sold losing tickets to customers.

Francis Bou Karam, who worked at Craig Liquor Store in Santa Ana from January 2013 through last November, redeemed $50,000 in winning lottery tickets while ripping off the State Lottery and customers of about $100,000, the combined value of the winning and losing tickets.

The type of fraud Karam did is called “pinning,” in which he would scratch off a small portion of lottery tickets to see if they were winners, according to Senior Deputy District Attorney Robert Mestman.

Karam, 34, pleaded guilty to grand theft, computer access and fraud and forgery, all felonies. He also admitted sentencing enhancements for aggravated white-collar crime of more than $100,000 and stealing more than $50,000.

Karam was ordered to pay nearly $150,000 in restitution to the state lottery system and a $10,000 fine, and is barred from working at a lottery retailer, Mestman said.

“This one was bad because he would keep the winning tickets and put losing tickets back in the queue to be sold to unsuspecting customers,” the prosecutor said. “So we don’t even know who the victims are. We can’t even go back to reimburse the victims. The money goes back to the state lottery, and there are probably hundreds of unknown victims out there.”

Multiple counts of forgery were dismissed in exchange for Karam’s plea.

City News Service

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